Finding the mental strength to stick to a training routine is tough but is joining an exercise group the answer? Alice Hector weighs up what you’ll gain and how you can use people power to achieve new personal bests.
Like many people, I enjoy using training sessions to just be by myself, in my own thoughts and detached from the world for a while. It lets me train at the intensity I choose and I’m not accountable to anyone but me.
I operate as a lone wolf, in complete control of what I make of the session. It’s escapism at its finest – but it’s also boring. With no human distraction from the pain, time can stand still. Plus, are you really pushing your limits when you have only your shadow to chase?
As I’ve discovered, if you’re looking to make serious gains this year, here’s why you should also consider adopting a ‘pack mentality’ and adding in a few training sessions each week with other people.
Embrace your social nature
We are social creatures: genetically programmed to spend time with others. Nothing brings people closer than pain, physical suffering and success. By joining a training group, or buddying up in the gym, you’re not only getting in shape, you’re also sharing your experiences with others. You’ll get the feeling that you are a part of something, which will help you keep going. Quitting will become a much tougher option.
Commitment brings rewards
Committing to other people and knowing they are committed to you can be a huge motivator for when you’re not in love with the idea of working out. Training in the long and cold winter months can be challenging, but knowing that others are out there, getting on with it, can be all you need to join them and get the work done.
Your ‘enemy’ is your friend
Knowing my friends, who are often also my opponents, are not ignoring their 5:30am call for swim practice means I’m missing out big time if I don’t go. If you snooze – you lose. In sessions, seeing your buddy push out a personal record, or finishing just ahead of you, means you’ll try extra hard on the following rep or set. It’s surprising what can happen when you’re caught up in a competitive environment. A few seconds here or an extra rep there is where the best results come from.
Go to great pains together
Training can be physically and mentally demanding so it’s easy to start putting in less effort. However, if a group of you are going through the same session, you are in it together. The notion that ‘you are not alone’ is strangely comforting when things hurt a lot. Conversely, if you are doing a steady, long cardio session, with high boredom potential, you’ll be amazed how quickly the time can pass when you’re chatting away to a training buddy.
Harness collective knowledge
For every personal goal you’ve set, there is someone out there who has achieved something very similar. Seek these people out by asking around. Learning from others who have like-minded goals, or who have accomplished these tasks, can help make you a better athlete. Asking questions about routes, routines and injuries can help you gain a wealth of knowledge that will help you succeed. Most people will be delighted to offer advice when approached.
In conclusion, there are pros and cons to training both alone and in a group, so it’s smart to do both. You don’t want to push beyond your limits continuously, so keeping a balance of hard and easy sessions is key. However, if you want a more enjoyable pathway to achieve your dreams, join a pack to hunt down your goals.
Find more fitness advice and more in every issue of TRAIN for HER magazine.